“What makes machines, animals and humans smart? »Asks the subtitle of Paul Thagard’s new book. No “Are computers smarter than humans?” or “Will computers ever be smarter than humans?” Or even “Are computers and animals conscious, sensitive, or self-aware (whatever that means)? And that’s unfortunate, because although most people are probably more concerned with issues like these.
Thagard is a philosopher and cognitive scientist, and he has written numerous books on the brain, the mind, and society. In it, he defines what intelligence is and delimits the 12 traits and 8 mechanisms that he thinks it is constructed, understand it which allows him to compare the intelligences of these three very different types of beings. .
It begins with a riff on the Aristotelian conception of the ethics of virtue. Whereas in this case a good person is defined as someone who possesses certain virtues; in the case of Thagard, an intelligent person is defined as someone who embodies certain ways of thinking. Confucius, Mahatma Ghandi and Angela Merkel excelled in social innovation; Thomas Edison and George Washington Carver excelled in technological innovation; he cites Beethoven, Georgia O’Keeffe, Jane Austen and Ray Charles among his favorite artistic geniuses; and Charles Darwin and Marie Curie serve as models of scientific discoverers. Each of these people embodies different aspects of human intelligence, including creativity, emotions, problem solving, and the use of analogies.
A passing grade
Then he chooses six smart computers and six smart animals and scores them on how they stack up against people on these different characteristics and mechanisms of intelligence. The computers are IBM Watson, DeepMind AlphaZero, Self-Driving Cars, Alexa, Google Translate, and recommendation algorithms; the animals are bees, octopuses, crows, dogs, dolphins and chimpanzees.
All the rates are pretty abominable on his bulletin. Animals as a class do better, but computers evolve much faster. The result of his argument is that while some computers can beat the best humans at Jeopardy, Go, Chess, Debate, some medical diagnosis, and navigation, they are not smarter than humans because they have a weak equalizer. Or they may be smarter than some humans in some things, but they aren’t smarter than humanity with its diverse range of specializations.
Animals, on the other hand, can use their bodies to act on and perceive the world — often better than humans — but cannot reason. It’s almost like humans are animals with computer devices in their heads.
While we make comparisons …
After scoring, the book becomes quite expansive, with each chapter touching on a great topic that could be best covered in its own book (and often has been). Human benefits and when did spirits start to be better treated in Darwin’s Unfinished Symphony; The morality of robots and beasts and the ethics of AI have been best covered in countless works of fiction, such as Me, Robot, Blade Runner, and that of Mary Doria Russell The Sparrow, to only cite a few. These works not only raise the same ideas, they do so in a more nuanced, thought-provoking and much more interesting way.
Thargard lists his characteristics and intelligence mechanisms, and he lists the specific characteristics that give humans benefits, and he lists the principles that should dictate the future development of AI, and … that’s about all of his arguments. . This book has a lot of lists. Like a parcel. It makes his words simple and methodical, but also so, so boring to read.
He is not claiming that computers cannot or never will have emotions; he just concludes that they probably won’t, because why would anyone ever want to create computers with emotions? So, for now, our place at the top of intelligence seems secure. But if we ever meet a C-3PO (“human cyborg relations”) or a Murderous robot, we might have problems.